WATCH: Survivor's Final Four Battle for Immunity

Originally posted 05/18/2016 01:20 PM

By the time the castaways get to day 37 on Survivor, everyone is always exhausted. They're hungry. They smell bad. And they've spent more than a month living with people who they may not even like.

But Survivor producers have no mercy and often save the hardest challenges for later in the game. (The Vanuatu vertical maze comes to mind.)

The message is clear: If you're going to win the $1 million prize, you've go to earn it.

PEOPLE has an exclusive sneak peek at the the final four challenge on Wednesday's episode, and it looks like it would be grueling for a well-fed, well-rested contestant. For these starving people, it's downright brutal.

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Stephen Fishbach's Survivor Blog: Sizing Up the Final Four

Originally posted 05/12/2016 12:30 PM

Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on Survivor: Tocantins and a member of the jury on Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance. He has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @stephenfishbach.

"I didn't realize how much of your heart and your soul and your spirit and your body are involved in this game. Your head is just a little bitty part of it."Lisa Whelchel, Survivor: Philippines

It's hard out there for a Joe. Every Survivor Joe has met with a brutal physical end to his hard-fought game.

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Every season, someone emerges as a Survivor fan favorite.

Back in 2000, people actually wrote songs about Survivor's first sweetheart, the quirky and cute Colleen Haskell. Haskell parlayed that fame into a leading role in a Rob Schneider movie before vanishing from public life. (Speaking of Colleen, does anyone know where she is these days? Asking for a friend.)

We've seen other favorites come and go: Rupert, Russell, Cirie, Joe. CBS knows how to promote these fan favorites – casting them on subsequent seasons, booking them on soap operas and even having them compete on The Price Is Right.

But this is a first.

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Some Survivor eliminations are more painful to watch than others.

Alecia Holden, a 24-year-old real estate agent from Dallas, was inexplicably put on the "Brawn" tribe of Survivor: Kaoh Rong. It didn't go well.

Holden never quite fit in with the rest of her tribe. From the start, she was on the outs with former NBA star Scot Pollard and Michigan bounty hunter Kyle Jason. The clashes grew increasingly personal – and viewers have taken to social media to blast Pollard and Jason for actions they thought were misogynstic and disrespectful.

But Holden tells PEOPLE that she is far from a victim in the tribe dynamic – although you shouldn't expect her to invite her former tribemates over for dinner.

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Over the years, Survivor has had its share of medical evacuations.

Sometimes, it was the contestant's own fault, like when Mike Skupin fell into a fire during 2001's Australian Outback. Sometimes, it was due to illness, like when Panama's Bruce Kanegai found himself severely constipated.

Other times, the blame falls on the producers. In 2012, contestant Kourtney Moon broke her wrist during an ill-conceived challenge that had contestants jumping from a 25-ft. tower into a net.

But no Survivor has been quite as brutal and chaotic as last week's episode, where contestants spent nearly an hour digging in hot sand for bags of balls.

Three contestants had to be treated for some sort of heatstroke or heat exhaustion. While two of them recovered, Army vet Caleb Reynolds was evacuated from the game.

Reynolds, 28, tells PEOPLE about his horrifying experience – and how he's preparing to play the game again.

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Okay, watch the above exclusive Survivor preview showing the Survivor: Kaoh Rong episode 4 immunity challenge in which contestants have to run through obstacles and dig through sand for bags. We've seen it dozens of times before.

No big deal, right?


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Sometimes, Survivor contestants just find themselves on the wrong side of the numbers. Other times, they have the numbers, but they self destruct and find themselves voted out by their own alliance.

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Stephen Fishbach was the runner-up on Survivor: Tocantins and a member of the jury on Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance. He has been blogging about Survivor strategy for PEOPLE since 2009. Follow him on Twitter @stephenfishbach.

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Survivor's Sugar Kiper is Married – and Has a New Baby Girl!

Credit: @photauggie

She's an actress and pin-up model. He's a photographer. So it seemed natural for two-time Survivor contestant Jessica "Sugar" Kiper to tie the knot with her new husband, Nicholas Critelli.

The couple said "I do" on Valentine's Day in a small outdoor ceremony. The reception was held in a '50s diner. "It's unique," Kiper tells PEOPLE. "But I wanted to do something different. I'm wearing a red dress because that's good luck."

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